Are your workout habits hurting your knees?

Each day, exercise enthusiasts fill fitness floors across the country with the common goal of getting in shape. But many engage in potentially dangerous workout programs without any education on the proper form and safety precautions necessary to avoid injury. Instead, workout cues often come from watching other gym-goers or from following social media stars whose sole credential is looking great in gym gear.

Exercise is essential for well-being and longevity. But for it to be beneficial, it must be done right. It’s common to cruise through exercises that place pressure on the knees such as running, squatting, and climbing. It’s not until sustaining an injury to this sensitive joint that we consider the consequences of mindless movements.

Protect and support your overworked knees with the following fit tips and toning techniques:

Squat safely. If you’ve ever experienced a sharp pang of pain while practicing a deep bend, it’s enough to make you avoid squats entirely. But bending plays a major role in your daily activities, so it’s essential to learn how to squat safely.

Try this simple sequence to master your form:

  • Stand with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart and keep your gaze forward.
  • Body weight should always be kept in your heels. When you press into your heels, your posterior muscles are engaged. But when you shift body weight to the front of your foot, the workload transfers to your knees.
  • With your weight in your heels, hinge back at your hips as if you are about to sit down. If your range of motion permits, aim to lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the ground and your knees are at a 90-degree angle. Hold for a second, then stand up tall. Squat depth will vary based on athletic level and flexibility. If you are new to squatting, try using a seat behind you for support.
Proper squat form
Courtesy of Ashley Greenblatt
Proper squat form

Learn to lunge. One of the nicest things you can do for your knees is learn to lunge correctly. Unilateral exercises such as lunges help to correct muscular asymmetries, strengthen the core and lower body muscles, and improve flexibility and balance. When the hamstrings, quads, calves, and glutes are strong, the knee joint is more stabilized, which decreases the likelihood of strains and pains.

Here’s how to become a pro lunger:

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart, keeping your chest up, shoulders back, abs engaged, and gaze forward.
  • Take a step forward and lower your body so that both knees are bent at a 90-degree angle. Your front knee should be directly above your ankle; avoid allowing it to extend past your toes. Your back knee should stay in line below your hips and shoulders. Refrain from taking too big or too small of a step forward, since this will cause joints to be misaligned. Rather, step within your natural gait.
Phase 2 unassisted bodyweight lunge.
Courtesy of Ashley Greenblatt
Phase 2 unassisted bodyweight lunge.

Toning tip: Whether you are squatting or lunging, aim to practice these exercises three days each week. This allows ample time for rest and muscle regeneration, and prevents overuse injuries associated with too much pressure placed on the knee joint.

Avoid aches. To keep your knees healthy, it’s important to implement auxiliary toning tasks that strengthen the supporting muscle groups such as the hips, glutes, and quads.

These two exercises target the supporting muscles. To increase the challenge, add a resistance band around the thighs. For best results, repeat this quick circuit three times.

Clamshells:

  • Begin on your side with your legs stacked and head resting on your hand.
  • Without moving your upper body, pull your top knee up and away from your lower leg, keeping your feet glued together. Squeeze your glutes for two counts then lower. Keep pressure on the muscles by leaving a little gap between your legs. Repeat 10 times on each side.
Clamshells
Courtesy of Ashley Greenblatt
Clamshells

Side shuffles:

  • Hinge back at your hips to lower your body into a squat.
  • Keeping your feet parallel and toes forward-facing, take two steps to the right followed by two steps to the left. Stay low, repeating 30 times.
Side shuffle
Courtesy of Ashley Greenblatt
Side shuffle

Ashley Blake Greenblatt is a certified personal trainer and wellness coach. To learn more about her virtual training program, visit ashleyblakefitness.com.